The global sulphur cap comes with so many side issues – scrubbers, insurance and compliance – that ship owners and operators will need to be on their toes well before the regulations actually come into force on 1 January 2020. The lack of compliant fuel has always been seen as a major stumbling block in the short-term; where will the bunkers be that can offer this fuel and when will it be widely available? We have looked at this issue before: ships being stranded because lack of compliant fuel and concerns that some ships might have to use non-compliant fuel if there is an initial shortage – all these are worries ship owners and operators will face in the early stages of the compliance changeover.

One pressing thought: when will the demand for HSFO drop off? This will happen at some stage in 2019 and then the other question is – when do you start cleaning your tanks ready to accept the new fuel? Bunkering is the issue and so is the refining process. The demand for new fuel will almost certainly be high in the latter part of 2019 and the first month of 2020. The refining process and production of low sulphur fuel is placing demands on both sides of the industry. The trick for ship owners and operators is making the date for transition work in terms of cost and operational supply.

Recent report have suggested African bunker fuel markets could struggle to implement the IMO sulphur cap and the suggestion is this could be down to extensive competition from Mediterranean ports and the question of marine fuel quality. Once again the question of quality of the product rather than the initial price is the issue. Availability and compliance are not always natural bedfellows in any industry but when it comes to the 326 million cubic miles of ocean, the world’s ships are expecting more than a sign saying “No Fuel Today!”